Give your smart phone and tablet a good uncluttering

A few weeks ago, my family traveled to New York City. Part of my preparation was to add a few TV shows to my iPad for the kids to watch on our way there and then back. Of course, I found out right away that I did not have enough free space available on my iPad, so I had to decide which apps, photos, ebooks, etc. to delete.

That process highlighted just how cluttered my device had become. The thing was filled with unused apps, partially watched TV shows, and there wasn’t any order to anything. Before we left, I did a quick deletion of items to free up some emergency space, then after we returned from vacation I did a good house cleaning on my iPad. You can, too, on whatever smart phone and/or tablet you may have.

  1. Delete unused apps. It’s so tempting to leave an app on your device because you might need it “someday.” In my experience, that someday almost never comes. Months later, I had well over two dozen apps installed that I hadn’t launched in twice as long. I deleted them. Now, if that day does come that I need that one special app, I can re-download it for free then and there.
  2. Organize the keepers. Operating systems on smart phones and tablets give you much control over the placement and grouping of your device’s apps. On an Apple product, to move things around tap and hold onto any app until they start dancing around. I call this “Jiggle Mode.” Now you can move then onto other screens, or create folders of like apps by dropping them onto each other. Just be sure to avoid …
  3. Folders on the Home Screen. Your device’s Home Screen should contain only the apps you use most often (Unsure? Keep a running list for a week). It’s tempting to make, say, a “Work” folder on the Home Screen. But, avoid this. I like to have one-tap access to most of the apps on my home screen, so keep most of your folders on the second screen, third, etc.
  4. Keep photos under control. Photos can devour storage space fast. If you use Apple’s iPhoto to sync photos, you’re in luck. Create a “Smart Album” to automatically grab, say, the last six months’ worth of photos. Select New Smart Album from the file menu, then select “Date” and “Is within the range last six months.” Finally, with your device connected to iTunes, tell it to sync only that folder. That way you’ll always have the latest photos to show off and not those that are years old.
  5. Reclaim storage space. Launch the Settings app and then tap General and then Usage. You’ll get a list of your apps and how much space each is using. Some camera apps, like Camera +, maintain their own camera rolls of photos, in addition to what your iPhone’s Camera app maintains. Delete those duplicate photos to save a lot of space.
  6. Re-think iTunes sync. I’ve fallen in love with Rdio, a subscription service that lets me stream music to my iPad and iPhone for a monthly fee. In fact, I barely use iTunes or Apple’s Music app anymore. Therefore, I stopped syncing my music to my iPhone and iPad, saving a lot of space. If you use a third-party app for podcasts (like Instacast), disable podcast sync through iTunes, too.
  7. Give it a good scrubbing. Once in a while, remove your case and give it and your phone/tablet a good cleaning. There are many manufacturers who make wipes specifically for electronic devices. I’m partial to iKlear.

There you have it! My pre-vacation frustration is your gain. For those who really want to go hardcore clutter-free, I have one more tip. Note that it breaks my rule about folders on the Home Screen … but that’s okay.

Most of us only use a few apps consistently. For me, Mail, Apple’s Camera, Twitterrific for Twitter, Calendar, Apple’s Podcasts and Safari are the big six. Yet, I’ve got twenty icons on my home screen. Why? In fact, it’s possible to have up to 48 apps immediately accessible from the home screen without creating a cluttered mess. Instead, you’ll be able to look at your favorite photo unhindered. Here’s how.

First, identify your most frequently-used apps. Don’t worry if it’s more than six. Like I said, you can keep up to 48. Next, follow these steps:

  1. Enter “Jiggle Mode” and gather the apps into a folder(s). You can store up to 12 apps in a folder, and the dock will hold four folders.
  2. Give each folder a descriptive name, like “Work,” “Reading” or “Games.”
  3. Drag the folders into the Dock, displacing apps you use less frequently.
  4. Clear the rest off of your home screen by dragging them to other pages.

Your’e done! Now you can access your favorite apps easily while enjoying a clutter-free home screen. Of course, you aren’t restricted to the iPhone. Below is a screenshot of this setup on my iPad.


Now, get out your iPad, iPhone, smartphone and/or tablet and unclutter it.

9 Comments for “Give your smart phone and tablet a good uncluttering”

  1. posted by marc on

    Immediately after reading the first sentence of #1 I stopped and removed all unused apps from my phone… about 10 apps. Great read thanks!

  2. posted by Rae on

    I like having folders on my home screen. That’s how I manage to only have one screen. I have folders for ‘photography’ (photos, camera, photobooth), reading (various ebook & PDF readers, Zinio), ‘social (FB, Twitter, Feedly), and so on with writing, reference, games, video, and utilities. Everything’s in a folder. Tap the right folder, tap the app. Everyone’s got their own system that works.

  3. posted by Cat on

    Thanks for this, i was overdue for an iPad re-org. I’m curious, you say to avoid having a work folder on your home screen, but your screenshot shows a work folder. Confusion ensues. Can you elaborate?

  4. posted by tom on

    Android has the clear upper hand to iOS in regards to monitoring app usage. There is an app available on Android that monitors what apps you use when and how often. It then recommends apps you can delete because you never use them.

    I really wish this was available on iOS.

  5. posted by Robyn on

    I was going to leave a substantive comment, but I got distracted by how cute these kids are. I also really want a red sweater with elbow patches like that one.

  6. posted by Erica on

    Really good recommendations! I just went through my phone and iPad… and it was embarrassing how many “someday” apps I had on there.

    I love iKlear as well! It is amazing how rarely we clean our technology considering the places we bring it. 🙂

    Have a great weekend!

  7. posted by David Caolo on

    Robyn, thanks so much!

  8. posted by Peter Taylor on

    I often download apps Apple’s ‘top lists’, on impulse or on friends’ recommendations. Many are then hardly ever used. I have made an Unneeded Apps folder on iPhone to park low-use app, and I periodically empty this folder. Keeps my home screen clean and uncluttered.

    Two of my favorite un-cluttering apps are Pic Scanner ( and PageScanner ( The first is just awesome for scanning photos, and the second is a free document scanning app.

  9. posted by [email protected] on

    Thanks for the reminder. I have way too many photos and way too many old text messages. Maybe that’s why my phone is running slow.

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